For the Birds, 2008

Concourse Off Site
Blackrock Park, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council
1 May – 1 June, 2008

curated by Carolyn Brown and Claire Power

with artists Aoife Desmond, Mark Garry and Alan Phelan

PDF Brochure
photography: Michael Durand

Works by Alan Phelan
Lizzy Feeder, Bald Finch Thin Lyrics

Alan Phelan’s three artworks make a connection between the social and musical history of Blackrock Park and the bird wildlife. The two papier-mâché sculptures and graphics with graffiti on the bandstand take as their starting point the Thin Lizzy free gig in the park in 1971. In referencing this gig, Alan creates a link to the past by re-introducing shared moments from the past into the present and perhaps re-establishes a musical legacy for the park among a new generation of park users. Research plays a fundamental role in Alan’s practice, supporting his interest in the narrative potential surrounding an artwork. The aesthetic of these three artworks, Lizzy Feeder, Bald Finch and Thin Lyrics reference the styles and phenomena associated with the park in its transitional state. The ideas implicit in the works are humorous, nostalgic and critically engaged.

Lizzy Feeder is a papier-mâché crushed car bird feeder hanging from a tree – the front of the work is a three-dimensional rendering of the album cover artwork for the Thin Lizzy 1971 self-titled first album.

Bald Finch is a papier-mâché bird in the Cottage Aviary building. The work is a fusion of a small finch bird, which is the most populous bird in the Park and a bald eagle. This turns the tiny domestic bird into a bird of prey.

Thin Lyrics are graphics with graffiti on the bandstand base incorporating lyrics from the 1971 Thin Lizzy album. The sentimental tone of the text co-exists with the un-official graffiti on this structure, recognising like the other works, the kind of social, anti-social and sanctioned behaviour that function throughout the Park.

“With my work I am interested in referencing narratives from history and popular culture as well as site concerns. For this project I have centred the three works around a music event in the park and the birds who inhabit the Park – fusing a human recreation aspect of a public park and the wildlife who also, in a way, use the park.” Alan Phelan


Concourse Offsite 2008 Curators’ Introduction
Since 1999, DLR Arts has commissioned contemporary visual artists to create artworks specifically for exhibition in County Hall. 2008 sees an exciting new development of this programme with DLR Arts commissioning three artists to create site specic artworks for the outdoor location of Blackrock Park.

Artists Aoife Desmond, Mark Garry and Alan Phelan were invited to respond to ideas of transience and impermanence in the context of Blackrock Park. The exhibition happens in the context of DLR County Council’s redevelopment plan for the park, which is due to begin later this year and will see the park significantly transformed and modernised.

Concourse Offsite takes contemporary art outside the conventional exhibition space and brings it into an everyday setting where it will be experienced by the users of Blackrock Park as well as a wider arts audience. In moving outdoors, the exhibition presents new challenges for the artists involved who had to respond to the special considerations of working in a fluid, natural environment.

All of the artists have a site-specic installation practice and through it, they’ve engaged with the unique environment or history of the park.

A temporary exhibition, in a transitional setting, Concourse Offsite in Blackrock Park touches on ideas of time, memory, change and impermanency specic to a particular location and setting. The exhibition is a chance for the public to experience art in the every-day world for a short time, 1st May — 1st June 2008.

Carolyn Brown & Claire Power


Concourse OffSite 2007- 2008

Proposal – Alan Phelan

For this proposal I am interested in making a connection between the social and musical history of Blackrock Park and the bird wildlife. I hope to use several locations within the Park where work will be placed and visual interventions made. The combined works remember the great musical acts who have performed in the Park yet also questions the role of the Park as a place for wildlife mixed with human recreation. Both are regular conflicting functions of the Park and yet they have to find a balanced co-existence. The aesthetics of the work reference a variety of amateur crafts as well as styles and phenomena associated with public spaces, i.e. graffiti, abandoned cars, litter, etc. This idea is humorous, nostalgic and critical.

The three works I am proposing are: a bird feeder sculpture hung from a Scot’s Pine tree; painting the base of the Bandstand with bright colours and graphics; and placing another sculpture inside the Cottage Shelter.

I am interested in connecting to my practice and ideas that I have been working with and around over the past few years. I have made various works relating to mobile phone masts which are disguised as trees, specifically fake Scot’s Pine trees which are often used to hide mobile phone antennae. This was manifested as drawings and several sculptures which were disguised or badly ‘blended-in’ with pine clusters made from cocktail sticks.

I have been keen to explore how the term ‘blending-in’ can be applied to social and cultural situations and phenomena, namely around youth car culture and modified cars. My most recent work has combined several narrative and historical sources to create hybrid works that have connected Irish Nationalist history with science fiction, art history and political protesting.

Lizzy Feeder
The famous Irish rock band Thin Lizzy played a gig in the Park in 1971, performing on the island stage to the grass amphitheatre. The Park is also trafficked by many birds, some coming from the nearby bird sanctuary in Booterstown, including herons, kingfishers, swans and their signets, as well as over 300 finches (recorded by one of the Park Attendants for Bird Watch Ireland).

I propose to make a sculpture which will hang from the Scot’s Pine tree in the island of the pond or the trees near the Bandstand. The shape of the work is based on the greatly distorted image of the car used on the cover of Thin Lizzy’s self-titled 1971 album. This is a fish-eye lens photo centred on a car headlight. I have reconstructed the rest of the possible image as equally distorted, now resembling a stylised crushed car. The final work should look semi-abstract from a distance but with some familiar car part references up close, i.e. bumper, lights, boot.  Please note that the macquette enclosed with the proposal is to give an idea of the shape and surface of the Feeder but is not the final design. The size should be approx. 2m high x 1.5m wide.

The work will be made papier-mâché with fibre glass supports on the interior. It needs to be lightweight but durable and remain non-toxic to wildlife. I use a very inert conservation quality book-binding glue for my papier-mâché works. For outdoor durability this will need an additional weatherproof sealant (water-based clear varnish).

I want to use fluorescent coloured paper so that the work will be highly visible to park users and DART passengers. The work should be relatively light-weight and could be installed without the use of a cherry picker, using appropriate harness and safety equipment. The tree on the island would be an ideal location but I understand that this is also a nesting area for the swans and signets so this may not be possible. I would propose placing suet and seed bird feed on the exterior centre of the sculpture in the centre of the headlamp void.

Bandstand Bands
To highlight and increase the visibility of the Off-site programme in the Park I am also proposing to paint the base of the bandstand. While the roof has been recently renovated, the base of the bandstand is a common site for graffiti. The design of this new paint work would be to use the logos of the music bands in a collage style, using several stencils to create clear graphic lettering, logos and designs. This would be painted over the existing graffiti, covering it with more structured designs in bright and fluorescent colours. The graphics used will come from various musical acts that have performed in the Park as well as record sleeve logos from types of popular and classical music. This work commemorates the many forms of music that have happened on this site but in a contemporary street style. Prior to the bandstand move to a different part of the Park (as proposed in the Concept Masterplan) I feel this would be an appropriate gesture to memorialise the musical activities of the Park.

Cottage Aviary
I would also like to make a sculpture for this site within the Park. At present the cottage/shelter is unused with wire mesh grills over the doors and windows. This would provide an ideal location for a sculpture that can be protected within this enclosure. The interior is currently filled with litter which I would maybe like to leave in place and suspend a papier-mâché sculpture from the ceiling rafters to hang at eye level. The work would be something similar to the “Mosquito Man Arthur, 2007” attached which fused human and animal forms. In this instance I would like to make a medium sized sculpture (approx 75 cm wide) of a bird in flight, specifically a finch because they are so common in the park. The pose would be more dramatic than usual, as illustrated it would resemble the attack posture of a large eagle, inverting this common songbird’s sweet reputation. Different coloured paper will be used to mimic the markings of the common finch similar to the use of coloured papers in the ‘Pig Protestor, 2007” sculpture attached. I would also like it to be holding something. This should reference the musical history of the Park in some way, possibly an electric guitar or relevant musical instrument – more research is required to finalise this idea.